A new product launch every 20 days
Boat and trade shows are great places for product managers and sales staffs to get together with potential buyers and
customers to demonstrate the latest innovations and answer questions. Now and again, CEOs of major multi-national
corporations may make brief guest appearances, but it’s rare. So when Leif Ottosson, president and chief executive
officer of parent company Navico Holding AS, began turning up regularly at events a few years ago to talk to attendees and reporters about the company’s latest products, people noticed. We took the opportunity last November at
METS—the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam—to sit down with the 57-year-old former business owner
for a wide-ranging discussion.
Q&MEJ: When did you join Navico? Ottosson: I was hired in 2006 as a consultant by the private equity group that owns Navico. My back- ground was entrepreneurial [Ottosson has an MBA from Harvard University]. I had owned three companies, which I sold. In 2009 they asked me to take on the role of CEO rather than serve as a consultant. We are a Norwegian company but no one knows that. There are nine people on our management team, based in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the US. We meet six times a year. MEJ: You take a very active role at shows, putting in time at Navico’s booth talking to boaters, industry
people and the press about the company’s electronics. That’s a pretty unusual role for a CEO.
Ottosson: I love to meet customers and suppliers face to face. We [Navico] have 1300 people and I try
to visit our offices as often as possible. I want them to know I’m approachable and that they can come talk
to me, tell me if something’s not working well. It’s the same with customers and suppliers. We have a tremendous group of people working for this company.
I travel 300 days a year; I’m very seldom at home in Sweden. A few weeks ago I was in Fort Lauderdale,
then in our offices in the US and Mexico. From there I flew to China to meet with suppliers and customers
and then to our Logistics Center in Holland, and now I’m at METS.
MEJ: At this event last year, you told a press conference that Navico was committed to launching a new
product every 20 days—and you repeated that strategy this year. That’s an impressive rollout. How’s it working?
Ottosson: It’s very important. Customer behavior is driven by the availability of new electronics. It
comes from their experience with phones, computers, tablets, etc. They want to see continuous innovation.
That’s different than what they often say, which is that they are happy with existing features. It’s tough to move
two-year-old product; you have to reduce the price. New doesn’t necessarily mean more features, which we
are providing, but the equipment must be faster, simpler to use.
At METS this year we launched 25 different products in eight product families, which shows the pace of
development that’s occurring in the marine electronics industry.
What we do in the marine electronics business that’s different from consumer electronics is that we support products for a long time. No other industry gives away so much free software updates—not fixes but
rather new functionality the user gets free. Twice or three times a year we release new software for old equipment. The industry is taking good care of its customers.
MEJ: Navico has reported significant growth in recent years. How has the company accomplished that?